Star chef turns to farming

Alain Fabregues in the gardens of the Loose Box.
Alain Fabregues in the gardens of the Loose Box.

The chef decided to try his luck at truffle farming on the advice of a knowledgeable French truffle connoisseur more than a decade ago.

‘He came to Margaret River to see if it had the right conditions for growing truffles,’ Mr Fabregues said.

‘When he got here, he said it did not feel like truffle country. Then I took him to the Avon Valley and he said ‘now this is truffle country’.’

Mr Fabregues and his wife, Elizabeth, purchased the 180ha Toodyay farm to grow the subterranean fungi in 2003 and said they loved living in the Avon Valley.

‘When I wake up and look at the view, I think ‘this is worth the drive’.

‘Even if the truffles don’t work out, I would still live in Toodyay,’ he said.

Mr Fabregues said he grew his first truffle in the roots of oak trees on the farm about two years ago, but since then it had become drier and there was insufficient water to irrigate.

Though he does not yet have truffles to sell, he already had ‘a huge list of potential clients’.

‘People are shouting for them,’ he said. ‘They are asking me ‘when will they be ready?’.’

Mr Fabregues said he had potential clients in Europe and around Australia, but was most looking forward to using them in his Subiaco restaurant, Bistro des Artistes.

‘I want to be able to share them with my friends and have them in my restaurant,’ he said.

Mr Fabregues said he would start digging for truffles again at the farm in June.

‘We just need one wet winter and it could be great,’ he said. ‘It would be so good for the Avon Valley ” if it is a success.’